Land of the Maharajas
Day 1 Delhi
Arrive in Delhi at any time, pickup and transfer to your hotel included. There are no planned activities, so check into to the hotel (check-in time is 12.00 midday) and enjoy the city. In the evening you will meet your fellow group members to go over the details of your trip. Check the notice board or ask reception where and what time the group meeting will be held.
Day 2 Mandawa (1B)
Dive into the heart of India’s capital to explore Old and New 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 Connaught Place, one of the most prominent architectural remnants of British rule. The Masjid-i-Jahan Numa, commonly known as the Jama or Jarna Masjid (Great Mosque) of Delhi is the principal mosque of Old Delhi in India. Masjid-i-Jahan Numa means "mosque commanding a view of the world, " whereas the name Jama Masjid is a reference to the weekly congregation observed on Friday (the yaum al-jum`a) at the mosque. Commissioned by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and completed in the year 1656 AD, the Jarna Masjid is the best-known and largest mosque in India; its courtyard can hold up to twenty-five thousand worshippers. The mosque houses several relics in a niche in the north gate, including a priceless copy of the Qur'an written on deer skin. The Sikh holy site of Gurdwara SisGanj stands at the site where the ninth Sikh Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur, was beheaded in 1675 on the orders of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb for refusing to accept Islam. During a time when the emperor was waging a war against Hindus, Guru Tegh Bahadur argued for freedom of worship and was executed as a result. Before his body could be quartered and exposed to public view, it was stolen under cover of darkness by one of his disciples, Lakhi Shah Vanjara, who then burnt his house to cremate the Guru's body. The severed head (Sis) of Guru Tegh Bahadur was recovered by Bhai Jaita, another disciple of the Guru, and cremated by the Guru's son, Gobind Rai, later to become Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth and last Sikh Guru. The giant circle of New Delhi’s Connaught Place, sitting at the centre of any map of Delhi, radiates with roads like spokes from a wheel. The circle’s obviously Victorian architecture was modeled after the Royal Crescent in Bath, England. Later we head to the small town of Shekhawati - Mandawa. Shekhawati a region in the colourful state of Rajasthan is better known as an open-air Art Gallery. With mansions after mansions of old business families and nobles, painted with rich natural colours and depicting a variety of stories, beliefs and changes in Indian culture. In some of these paintings you will also find the use of real gold and silver. Drive time: Approx. 5 hours
Day 3-4 Bikaner (2B)
This morning we drive to the desert city of Bikaner. Our stay here is at a heritage property once the residence of one of the families of nobles. Bikaner is a 15th century kingdom primarily inhabited by trading communities and animal rearers. Even today this city abounds with Camels, infacts a whole breed of camels is named after the city. The Bikaneri camels are strong, well built and are generally used to carry loads. You can see camel carts just about every turn in Bikaner. Here we visit the 16th century Junagarh Fort, one of the best maintained fort and museum, and also take a stroll in the old bylanes of the city with its intricate carved Havelis and interesting local markets. We also drive down to the small town of Deshnoke about half an hour away where rats are revered by the locals. If you don't have a liking for the rats you could opt to stay out and enjoy the beautifully carved door way and the small market around. There is also an option to visit the Camel Breeding centre (one of its kind in this part of the world), the very site of camels returning after their daily graze is breathtaking. And you can go for a small camel ride if you desire in the arid countryside. Drive time: Approx. 3 hours
Day 5 Jodhpur (1B)
After breakfast, this morning we drive down to the twin city of Bikaner - Jodhpur. Jodhpur is more popular as the Blue city, a colour that reflects from the walls and the roofs of the old houses giving a blue tinge when observed from the ramparts of Mehrangarh Fort. The city itself is located at the base of the fort and the clock tower markets are always abuzz. Mehrangarh Fort, built in the 15th century, is spellbounding as it hangs over the cliff merging with the hill below. The ramparts even today tell story of the battles that the fort faced. As we climb up the winding road through the seven imposing gates, it takes us into the by gone era of princes. It has a well stocked museum, and even an astrologer sitting in the courtyard who loves chatting with the visitors. Drive time: Approx. 5 hours
Days 6-7 Chandelao Garh (2B,2D)
This morning we take a Jeep Safaris into the countryside visiting tribal hamlets of Bishnois and Prajapats. Bishnois are a strong agrarian community who lives on 29 eco friendly comandments given by their founder. There have been stories where this community had done various sacrifices in saving flora and fauna of the region. Prajapats are weavers who weave small rugs of cotton and also live on animal husbandry. We then head into our first rural stay of Chandelaogarh. The nobles of Chandelaogarh are related to the principality of Jodhpur and have taken extreme steps in developing the village and its community. They started Sundar Rang which is a women cooperative where women of the village and surrounding hamlets are taught and supported in working on the local crafts which are then sold in the markets to get a regular income for these families. The village itself is a mirror of this state, with various communities living in harmony. You take a stroll in the village and its markets to go for a much closer local interaction.
Days 8-9 Udaipur (2B)
After breakfast we drive to the venice of the east - Udaipur. We stop enroute at the exotic marble temples of Ranakpur. The grand temples of Ranakpur were built in the 15th and 15th century by a local Business man under the patronage of the rulers of Mewar. The temples are constructed in marble where you the Cupolas, turrets and the mounted shikharas rising from the hill. There are about 1444 marble pillars, each of them carved exquisitely. Udaipur was founded in the 16th century when the ruler of Mewar found refuge in this hilllocked place and after blessings from a local sage decided to establish his capital city here. With artificial lakes to harvest the river water in abundance in this valley- this place is aptly considered the most romantic city of India. The charm of the town lies in its winding streets going up to the Jagdish Temple which is the heart of all the activity. You can stroll down the market or spend an afternoon in many of the roof top restaurants overlooking the lake. Here we visit the magnificient City Palace Museum with multiple view points for the Pichola Lake and the Jagdish Temple. We also go on an afternoon boat ride on lake Pichola to experience the stunning view of the city and palaces along the water. Drive time: Approx. 6 hours
Day 10 Jojawar (1B,1D)
Today we drive to a small rural town of Jojawar. A small principality with its own fiefdom, the erstwhile family still resides in the Rawla - a royal abode. Here we take walk around the village and surrounding hamlets interacting with different tribals - the Rabaris (Cattle herders), the Garasiyas (farm dwellers) and the Gadulia Luhars (rural ironsmiths). Here we also undertake a small train safari with the local villagers through the picturesque Aravali ranges. Drive time: Approx. 4 hours
Days 11-12 Jaipur (2B)
After breakfast this morning we drive to the capital of the state of Rajasthan - Jaipur. Jaipur is the most colourful of the cities. Known as the Pink city after the rusty colour that the walled city bears - Jaipur is a traveller's destination. With beautiful palaces, forts, gardens, temples and unending market streets. It has everything that the colourful state has to offer. Here we visit the 15th century Amber Fort and palaces Amber about 10 Kms outside the walled city was the earlier capital of the region. Nested in the Aravali ranges, it had a series of forts, frontier, millitary and residential. The city had beaitiful homes of nobles and business families and temples all over. When Jaipur was founded, everybody migrated to the new modern capital. Today a lot has been restored by the Archeological Survey of India. The Mirror Palace and the Jaivilas or the victory palace are the jewels of this beautiful palace. We also take a photo stop at the Hawa Mahal (Palace of winds) and visit the City Palace Museum and Jantar Mantar Observatory in the walled city. Jantar Mantar is one of the series of observatory built by Emperor Jai Singh, who was a renowned student of Astrology. Even today astrologers gather here and work out the Hindu Calander every year. The masonry structures are pretty accurate in calculating time, and location of various planets and constellations at a point of time. Jaipur is also the shopping hub of India. Textiles, Gems, Jewellery, Blue Pottery, Carpets, hand made paper- You name it and this city sells it all. Johari Bazaar, Hawa Mahal area and MI Road are the main shopping hubs. Do not forget the thumb rule of shopping in India - Bargain! Drive time: Approx. 6 hours
Day 13 Agra (1B)
After breakfast we drive to Agra, stopping at the Ghost City of Fatehpur Sikri, before our arrival at Taj Mahal for our sunset visit. Fatehpur Sikri was founded by the mighty Mughal Emperor Akbar who chose this place to create a new capital for India. It took about 12 years to construct this massive palace complex and the walled city along the artificial water reservoir. The city was inhabited for two years when scarcity of water and problems in distant regions forced them to leave the place. Fatehpur Sikri reflects the religious tolerance and understanding of the country and its various rules. The Diwan - E- Khas, Akbar's palace, The five storied palace are some of the interesting parts of this monument. Agra came into prominence in the 15th and 16th century when Lodis and then Mughal made it their capital and most parts of the country were governed from here. Today it is famous for the Taj Mahal. Known as one of the wonders of the world, this Marble masterpiece is a stunning example of the perfect interplay of art and architecture. Made in the memory of his wife Mumtaj Mahal, this mausoleum today houses the remains of both the king and the queen. Various epic stories are woven around this beautiful monument which are best discovered in the premises of Taj itself. Drive time: Approx. 5 hours
Day 14 Delhi (1B)
This morning after visiting the Agra fort, we drive to Delhi arriving by late afternoon. The Agra Fort was built by Emperor Akbar in 1565, and this imposing structure had additions by various rulers. Shahjehan brought the white marble which stands as a contrast to the otherwise rust colour. But more than that, the fort gives some beautiful views of the Taj at a distance. It is believed that Shahjehan was house arrested by his son here and he died overlooking the Taj Mahal. In Delhi, we enjoy a city tour by local streetkids, a Planeterra-supported project. It is estimated that 400,000 children live and work on the streets of Delhi. In most cases, their families are too poor to provide for them, they have run away from abusive home environments or they are orphans. Planeterra’s New Delhi Streetkids Project supports over 5,000 of these street children through strategically placed contact points, shelters and a health post set up by a local partner organization. These youth centers provide clothing, food, healthcare, education, counseling, recreational activities, job skills training and job placements. Through Planeterra’s partnership with Salaam Baalak Trust, scholarships are made available to young people who once lived and worked on the streets of Delhi. By funding vocational training in trade schools and universities, and making job-placements based on each child’s individual interest, we can help break the cycle of poverty and give these youth the opportunity to create a brighter future. Many of these adolescents have been fully-trained as tour guides and lead exciting tours through the enchanting inner city streets of Paharganj, the New Delhi railway station, and The Old City. This tour is a unique way for travelers to engage in these children’s lives and the guiding provides an opportunity for them to improve their communication and speaking skills. We also visit the head quarters of Salaam Baalak Trust and have the opportunity to meet some of the kids in the program. Drive time: Approx. 5 hours
Day 15 Delhi (1B)
Our trip ends today. You can depart any time. However the check out time is 12 noon but you could use the hotel to keep your bags if you are out exploring Delhi.