Arrive in Delhi at any time, and join the included transfer to the hotel. Once in Delhi, we meet up with the other families in our group, and get to know our CEO. We have a chance tonight to get familiar with one of the main highlights of India - the food! We have a group meal in a local restaurant, a great way to get to know each other better.
Dive into the heart of India’s capital to explore Old Delhi. Visit Delhi’s famous Jama Masjid (Great Mosque) and climb the minaret for a bird’s eye view of the old city. Walk through Chandni Chowk, one of India’s oldest and busiest markets, and learn the history of the Sikh religion at the important Gurduwara, (Sikh place of worship) Gurdwara SisGanj. Stop for photos at the colourful spice market before finishing at the Victorian Connaught Place, one of the most prominent architectural remnants of British rule.
Udaipur is famous worldwide for its plethora of breathtaking lakes and Raj-era palaces. This is a city designed to make all the family feel like royalty. We will visit Udaipur's City Palace which stands on the east bank of Lake Pichola, a massive series of palaces built at different times from 1559. The balconies of the palace provide panoramic views of "Jag Niwas" (the Lake Palace Hotel), Jag Mandir on one side and on the other the city of Udaipur. Its main entrance is through the triple-arched gate - the Tripolia, built in 1725. The way now leads to a series of courtyards, overlapping parations, terraces, corridors and gardens. There is a Suraj Gokhda, where the maharanas of Mewar presented themselves in the times of trouble to the people to restore confidence. The Mor-chowk (Peacock courtyard), gets its name from the mosaics in glass decorating its walls. The chini chitrashala is noteworthy while a series of wall paintings of Krishna are on display in Bhim Vilas. There are numerous other palaces such as Dilkhush mahal, Sheesh mahal, Moti mahal and Krishna vilas - in memory of a princess of striking beauty who poisoned herself to avert a bloody battle for her hand by rival princes. Now the palace contains many antique articles, paintings, decorative furniture and utensils and attracts thousands of visitors every day. The former guesthouse of the city palace, Shiv Niwas and the Fateh Prakash Palace have been converted into heritage hotels. There is also time to visit the Jagdish Mandir, the largest temple in the city, before we head out to Bagore Ki Haveli, a palace on the shore of Lake Pichola, where we enjoy a culture show. The city’s lakes—Pichola, Fateh Sagar, Udai Sagar and Swaroop Sagar—are considered among the most beautiful in Rajasthan. An island in Fateh Sagar is even home to the Udaipur Solar Observatory, one of six stations participating in the international Global Oscillations Network Group (GONG), which studies the physical properties of the solar interior. Most famous of these, and certainly the most photographed, is the Lake Palace, an island-palace where the white marble buildings (now a hotel) entirely cover a small island in Lake Pichola. Originally known as the Jag Niwas, the palace took three years to build and was inaugurated in 1746. A morning boat trip around Lake Pichola will give us a better perspective on the beauty of the lake. There is free time after this on Day 4 to explore the city at leisure. In the afternoon,
We continue on through the desert along a small road, usually accessible via smaller vehicles. Heading northwards, we are on the way to Tordi Garh. Tordi Garh is a small, remote village where we stay in an old palace. We stay here is in a 150 years old residence of former nobles. The present family runs its heritage home. A 300 years old ruined stepwell gives you an input in age old systems of conserving water which have got affected due to massive commercial utilisation of natural resources.After cycling here, we will have time for a walk around this small area, populated by just 2000 people. The locals are very friendly, the children inquisitive, especially if you want to take a picture of them! The village is very pretty, a delightful place to stroll around this afternoon. Keep an eye out for hearts painted onto the doors with names written inside - this is the local custom for a marriage invitiation! The owner will take you around the village for a walk through various temples, residential areas of villagers, community areas, the general market. Evening you can go for sundowners on the dunes as you watch the sun setting over the wilderness.
Travel to the capital of Rajasthan and the former capital of a princely state of the same name, Jaipur. Clothed in pink stucco (in imitation of sandstone), wide-avenued Jaipur is one of the most important heritage cities in India, and home to India’s second most visited site, the Hawa Mahal, or Palace of the Winds. Here follow in the footsteps of the royal harem, or ride an elephant to the Amber Fort Palace, one of the most spectacular in India. Founded in 1728, Jaipur, or “The Pink City” as it is often called, is unlike any other pre-modern Indian city, in that the entire town was planned according to the principles of Hindu architectural theory. The city is in fact built in the form of a nine-part mandala known as the Pithapada, which combined with wide streets makes for an unusually airy, orderly atmosphere. That the results of this urban planning have so endured to this day (present day population approximately 3 million) is nothing short of miraculous. Enter the heart of the mandala (on foot or by cycle rickshaw) and you are in the central palace quarter, with its sprawling Hawa Mahal palace complex, formal gardens and a small lake. Built in 1799, the "Palace of Winds" was part of the City Palace, an extension of the Zenana or chambers of the harem. Its original intention was to allow royal ladies to observe everyday life in the street below without being seen. Constructed of red and pink sandstone highlighted with white lime, the five-storied facade is peppered with 953 small windows. The breeze (hawa) that comes through the windows keeps it cool even in hot months, and gives the palace its name. Just 15 km from central Jaipur is the ruined city of Amber, former capital of Jaipur state. Founded by the Meenas, Amber was a flourishing settlement as far back as 967 AD. Overlooking the artificial lake south of Amber town stands the Amber Fort/Palace complex, famous for its mixture of Hindu and Muslim architecture. At the bottom of a hill sits Amber Fort, initially a Palace Complex within the Fort of Amber on top of the hill (today known as Jaigarh fort). The two forts are connected through well-guarded passages, and there is even the option of an elephant ride from the town up to the palace courtyard.
Today we travel to the small town of Sawai Madhopur, where Ranthambore National Park, one of the original Project Tiger Reserves is located. Ranthambore gets its name from the two hills, Ran and Thambor. The Park is set between the Aravalli and Vindhya ranges. The terrain is rugged and there are rocky ridges, hills and open valleys with lakes and pools. The park was once the hunting preserve for the Maharajas of Jaipur and many royal hunting parties were held here. The park was included as one of the original Project Tiger parks in 1973. The Park has seen its ups and downs, and there were times, not so long ago, when poachers were having a field day in the Park. The total area of the National Park is 1334 sq km, whilst the inner core of the park takes up nearly 400 sq km. There are at least four non-government organizations that work in and around Ranthambore to ensure the protection of the wildlife and the ecosystem. These are the WWF – India; Ranthambore Foundation; The Centre for Environment Education; and Tiger Watch. The undoubted highlight of a visit to Ranthambore, if not the entire visit to India, is the chance to see tigers in their natural habitat. While there is never any guarantee of seeing tigers, numbers have been on the increase in Ranthambore over the last few years, so there it is likely that we would. The park contains a wide variety of wildlife other than just tigers, from sambar deer to abundant birdlife.
We leave Ranthambore for the city of Agra, home of the Taj Mahal. En route we stop at the abandoned Mughal kingdom of Fatehpur Sikri. Here you can walk the aisles of the Jama Masjid mosque, entered by way of the impressive Victory Gate, and lose yourself in the throngs of pilgrims at the tomb of the Sufi saint Salim Chisti, his white marble-encased tomb enclosed within the Jama mosque's central courtyard. The political capital of India's Mughal Empire under the reign of Akbar the Great (1571-1585), Fatehpur Sikri was eventually abandoned due to lack of water. Considered the crowning architectural legacy of Akbar (who also built the Red Fort) and still almost perfectly preserved, today the site is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The building material predominantly used is red sandstone, quarried from the same rocky outcrop on which it is situated. In its day, Fatehpur Sikri shared its imperial duties as a capital city with Agra, where a bulk of the arsenal, treasure hoards, and other reserves were kept at its Red Fort for security. During a crisis, the court, harem, and treasury could be removed to Agra, only 26 miles away, less than a day's march. We arrive into Agra this evening, where we spend the night.
We rise early this morning for a visit to the world-famous Taj Mahal. To get to the Taj Mahal, we must transfer to small, electric buses as there is a pollution exclusion zone to preserve the gleaming white marble of the Taj. It is an early start today, but we are afforded glorious views of the Taj Mahal as the sun rises over Agra. Constructed between 1631 and 1654 by a workforce of 22 000, the Taj Mahal was built by the Muslim Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a mausoleum for his favourite wife, Arjumand Bano Begum, better known as Mumtaz Mahal. Mumtaz had already borne the emperor fourteen children when she died in childbirth, and it is the romantic origin of the Taj as much as its architectural splendour that has led to its fame worldwide. Actually an integrated complex of many structures, the Taj Mahal is considered the finest example of Mughal architecture, itself a combination of Islamic, Hindu, Persian and Turkish elements. In the afternoon, we return to Delhi. Once back in the capital, we will visit Dilli Haat and Victorian Delhi, where it is easy to see the British legacy on the city.
This morning we bid farewell to India, and our fellow travellers. We transfer to the airport where the tour ends.