Timeless India: A Magical Adventure - 2018

Delhi • Varanasi • Agra • Jaipur • Udaipur • Cochin • Kumarakom • Mumbai
  • STAY AT UDAIPUR’S LAKE PALACE, FORMER ISLAND HOME OF THE MAHARANA
  • AARTI CEREMONY AT BANK OF GANGES IN VARANASI
  • VISIT THE ANCIENT MOSQUE COMPLEX, A UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE DATING TO THE 12TH CENTURY
  • STAY AT THE FAMED KUMARAKOM RESORT ON THE SHORES OF VEMBANAD LAKE
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Timeless India: The Festival of Lights

Everyone with a desire to travel India knows that that country's history goes back millennia — quite fitting for a country teeming with amazing cultural discoveries and diversity. This grand journey is your opportunity to see the north and the south of India, and to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience: the celebration of Diwali. 


Marvel at bustling Delhi and fortified Jaipur, the famed Pink City. Experience the spiritual power of Varanasi, wander romantic and regal Udaipur, and gaze upon Agra's unparalleled Taj Mahal. Then venture south to discover colonial Cochin, explore the Kerala backwaters, and feel the pulse of legendary Mumbai. As you travel, you'll see the fascinating dichotomy of India: a nation both noisy and serene, mystical and majestic. 

Throughout your journey, you have numerous opportunities to interact with the local people and get to know their way of life. As you travel across India, you'll ride a rickshaw, join a family for dinner in their home, visit local markets and bazaars, and much more. And while you're in Delhi, you'll get to witness a cultural celebration unlike any other: Diwali.

The multi-hued tapestry of Indian culture (including its festive traditions) unfurls before you on this comprehensive land adventure. Join us and see what makes India so timeless.

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DAYS 1-2:

Depart home / Overnight flight / Delhi, India

We arrive in Delhi after an overnight flight, or after enjoying our Kathmandu extension. After clearing immigration and customs, you are met at the airport and transferred to your hotel. The remainder of the evening is at leisure, and dinner is on your own.

DAY 3:

Delhi

We begin our exploration of this enigmatic country with an excursion into New Delhi, driving past the grand President's Palace and the ancient and imposing India Gate. After lunch at a local restaurant, we visit Qutab Minar, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At 240 feet, it India’s second-tallest minaret and oldest mosque, a magnificent blend of red sandstone and marble. After admiring the towering treasure, we return to the hotel and get better acquainted at a Welcome Dinner at the hotel.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 4:

Delhi

Unforgettable Moment: Today we take in the other side of Delhi – Old Delhi – on a fascinating excursion. We will see Raj Ghat, the memorial to peaceful crusader Mahatma Gandhi and the huge Jama Masjid mosque whose courtyard can hold 25,000 worshippers. After, we make a photo stop at the Red Fort, a sprawling vision of red sandstone. Cultural Discovery: Hop aboard a rickshaw for a ride among the colorful wares, fragrant spice-lined lanes, and narrow alleys of Chandni Chowk, the city’s oldest and busiest market. After lunch in a local restaurant, we visit a local carpet workshop. Return to the hotel for an evening at leisure and dinner on your own.

The true excitement begins later today, as we venture out to celebrate Diwali with the people of Delhi. 

Diwali is the Festival of Lights: a yearly celebration of good overcoming evil. During this autumn event, small clay lamps are lit in order to welcome the Hindu goddess Lakshmi. Locals share sweets with family members and the streets are filled with the sounds of firecrackers, which are believed to scare evil spirits away. Being a part of this time-honored tradition will be a highlight of your journey. 

Included Meals:

Breakfast  & Lunch

DAY 5:

Delhi / Varanasi

Today, we'll fly to Varanasi. This sacred Hindu city on the banks of the Ganges is the city of the Hindu god Shiva and one of India’s holiest cities. Pilgrims flock here for a ritual bath in the Ganges to wash away their sins. A highlight of your visit here is witnessing an evening aarti ceremony, an offering to the gods on the banks of the river. We'll get additional perspective on this country's complex spiritual tapestry when we listen to a lecture on Buddhism and Hinduism.   


Included Meals:

Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 6:

Varanasi

Early this morning you can take an optional sunrise boat tour on the Ganges to watch the sunrise and observe the morning rituals of the Hindu worshippers. Later, embark on a tour of Sarnath – where the Buddha was said to have given his first sermon after his enlightenment – and learn more at the Sarnath Museum. Cultural Discovery: Visit a local music school to get a perspective on this part of the local culture.

Included Meals:

Breakfast  & Lunch
Optional Tour: Sunrise Boat Tour on the Ganges

Sunrise Boat Tour on the Ganges

  • Approximate Cost: $39 USD per person
  • Approximate Time: 2 hours
  • Location: Varanasi, India
  • When: Early morning tour

Discover the soul of India during your visit to Varanasi, the city of Lord Shiva, one of the most sacred cities in Hindu India. Here, temples line the sacred River Ganges, with broad ghats — or steps — leading down to the water’s edge. You will follow these steps to the river’s edge in the pre-dawn light to board a boat for the ride into the broad river. As you venture out into the morning mists, you’ll find yourself transported to a different world. Then, as the sun rises and illuminates the temples along the river, you’ll see the devout coming down to the river for a ritual washing away of sins. Others will be doing exercises and priests will be performing sunrise rituals. Whether you treat this as one of India’s best “photo ops,” or an experience to silently absorb, this is an experience no traveler to India should miss.


DAY 7:

Varanasi / Agra

Today we fly from Varanasi to Agra, home to the inimitable Taj Mahal. After lunch at a local restaurant, we head out to explore Agra Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is more of a walled city than a fortress. Its vast walls embody the power and wealth of the Mughal leaders who built it. After a tour of its interior, we return to the hotel for an evening at leisure and dinner on your own.

Included Meals:

Breakfast  & Lunch

DAY 8:

Agra

Unforgettable Moment: This morning, we visit India’s most iconic landmark, the magnificent Taj Mahal. This UNESCO World Heritage Site, a splendid marble wonder, was built by Shah Jahan as a mausoleum for his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. After time to take it all in, we return to our hotel for lunch on your own and an afternoon at leisure. Late this afternoon, you can join an optional "Taj at Sunset" tour. Dinner is at the hotel tonight.

Please note: Due to routine maintenance of the Taj Mahal estimated to be completed by the end of Spring 2018, you may see some scaffolding and/or cleaning materials on the landmark's surface.

Included Meals:

Breakfast & Dinner
Optional Tour: Taj Mahal at Sunset

Taj Mahal at Sunset

  • Approximate Cost: $45 USD per person
  • Approximate Time: 3 hours
  • Location: Agra, India
  • When: Early evening

The tour starts with a visit to Itmad-ud-daulah, the tomb of Mirza Ghiyas Beg, an important official of the Mughal empire and grandfather of Mumtaz Mahal, for whom the Taj Mahal was built. When Ghiyas Beg’s daughter Nur Jahan commissioned her father’s tomb, it was the first in Mughal India to be constructed of pure marble rather than sandstone and to feature the pietra dura inlay later used on the Taj walls. It is thus often called the “Baby Taj.”

At sunset, we move on to Mehtab Bagh (Moonlight Garden), on the flood plains across the Yamuna River from the Taj. Shah Jahan, the Mughal emperor who created both the Taj Mahal and the garden, felt that the best view of his wife’s mausoleum was from here. Once surrounded by sandstone-clad walls, crisscrossed by white stone walkways, and planted with fruit trees and narcissus, the bagh was nearly ruined by floods and neglect, but is today being restored, including replanting to match the original Mughal horticulture. Some of these plants produce bright flowers that shine in the moonlight. In these splendid surroundings, as you feast your eyes on the golden hues washing the Taj across the river, perhaps you, too, will feel Shah Jahan’s pride and undying love for his queen.


DAY 9:

Agra / Jaipur

We drive to Jaipur, India’s “Pink City,” and check in to our hotel. We begin exploring the capital of the state of Rajasthan, visiting the famed City Palace as well as the Museum of Jaipur. Cultural Discovery: This evening, prepare for a special dinner out as we are the guests of a local family in their home. Our visit affords the unique opportunity to meet an Indian family in the comfort of their home and share insights about our lives with them.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 10:

Jaipur

After breakfast, we set out for the Amber Fort, stopping to view the remarkable Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds) along the way. Its filigreed façade of hundreds of windows provided tiny windows through which women of the harem could watch the world go by without being seen. We enjoy a jeep ride to the Amber Fort, and then embark on a tour of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Cultural Discoveries: Afterwards, in order to continue our immersion into local culture, we’ll visit a bazaar and go for a walk through the old quarter of Jaipur. Return to the hotel for an evening at leisure with dinner on your own.

Included Meals:

Breakfast  & Lunch

DAY 11:

Jaipur / Udaipur

For those who are interested, we will wake early this morning to set off on an optional hot-air balloon excursion. Soaring over this legendary city is an experience beyond compare. Later, we’ll venture to one of India’s most picturesque and romantic cities: Udaipur. We will not only visit the former palace of the Maharaja – set in the middle of beautiful Lake Pichola – we will stay there. Our accommodations will be at the Lake Palace Hotel, a remarkable property in glittering white in the center of the lake. Dinner is at the hotel this evening. 

Included Meals:

Breakfast & Dinner
Optional Tour: Sunrise Balloon Over Jaipur

Sunrise Balloon Over Jaipur

  • Approximate Cost: $245 USD per person
  • Approximate Time: 1-2 hours
  • Location: Jaipur, India
  • When: Early morning

Rise early and join us on this thrilling excursion that shows you from the air why Jaipur is called the “Pink City.” You’ll rise before dawn for an early-morning pick-up at your hotel, then proceed to the launch site. As you float into the pre-dawn air, you’ll have a spectacular view of Jaipur and its surroundings. You’ll silently drift high above Man Sagar Lake and its beautiful water palace that seemingly floats on its surface. Gaze down upon the countryside as it awakens from its slumber and get a true sense of India from the air as its teeming streets spring to life far below. The cost of this optional tour includes roundtrip transfers from the hotel, a pre-flight briefing, and a flight of approximately one hour. After your magnificent balloon excursion, you’ll return to your hotel in time for breakfast.


DAY 12:

Udaipur

Unforgettable Moment: Today, we take a boat out for a sightseeing cruise on Lake Pichola and visit the Garden of the Ladies.  In the afternoon, we visit the City Palace, a grand architectural feat built over 400 years. Cultural Discovery: After exploring this impressive testament to the might of the Mewar dynasty, we’ll hop on rickshaws and go to local spice and vegetable markets.

Included Meals:

Breakfast  & Lunch

DAY 13:

Udaipur / Cochin

The morning starts with breakfast, followed by a tour of Udaipur including the Rajastan Art School of Miniature Painting. Then we leave Udaipur behind and begin our adventures in south India – starting with Cochin. We’ll settle into our hotel here, and then listen to a lecture on South India's colorful culture given by our adventure leader.  Dinner is at a local restaurant. Cultural Discovery: After dinner, we’ll enjoy a captivating Kathakali dance performance.

Included Meals:

Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 14:

Cochin

Today, we begin our discoveries of southern India. Cochin has a long history as a spice trading hub and so it immediately drew the attention of colonial powers. In fact, this was the heart of the Portuguese empire in India at the beginning of the 16th century, and it was subsequently conquered by the Dutch and British. Today, remnants of these empires remain, but Cochin still has a character all its own. We’ll discover this character on a morning city tour, which will take us to the famed St. Francis Church as well as the Chinese Fishing Nets in Cochin Harbor. 

Cultural Discovery:
We’ll enjoy a cooking demonstration – the delicious results of which will be our lunch – before taking the afternoon to do as we wish. In the evening, a special treat awaits: an enchanting sunset cruise on the Arabian Sea.   


Included Meals:

Breakfast  & Lunch

DAY 15:

Cochin / Kumarakom

The Kerala backwaters are practically de rigueur for any adventure in southern India, and we’ll experience it in true Vantage style at Kumakarom Island Resort. This upscale escape has drawn luminaries such as Prince Charles (who spent his 65th birthday at the resort), and it doesn’t take long to realize why. With luxurious accommodations designed to mimic the 16th-century traditional homesteads of this region, this resort helps to immerse you in the feel of Kerala while pampering you at the same time. Whether relaxing in your room, delighting your palate at the on-site restaurants, or offering indulgent Ayurvedic treatments at the spa, you’ll realize why this resort has received so many accolades. We’ll settle into our environs here with an afternoon and evening at leisure, or join an optional Mohiniattam Dance & Dinner tour. This experience introduces us to this classical dance form popular in Kerala. Dancers depict scenes from Indian epics while accompanied by Indian instruments like the veena and mridangam. Dinner is included before the show. 


Included Meals:

Breakfast  & Lunch

DAY 16:

Kumarakom

Yet another memorable experience awaits you today: cruising through the backwaters of the Alleppey region. We’ll take in the peaceful scenery as we float aboard a houseboat built to ply these waters, and see what life is like on the rice farms and villages of the region on a shore excursion. We’ll then embark on a walking tour of Old Alleppey village, getting a firsthand look at the culture here (and contrasting it with what we’ve seen in the north). We’ll then drive back to the resort, where we’ll savor a delicious dinner and perhaps discuss our favorite moments from the day’s adventures.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 17:

Kumarakom / Cochin / Mumbai

We’re off to Mumbai today, known as India’s “Maximum City.” This is a city of dreams – a teeming, cosmopolitan metropolis that is the beating heart of this nation. After some time to settle in here, we’ll go for an orientation walk to the Gateway of India. Built to commemorate the visit of Queen Mary and King George in 1911, a grand arch on the Arabian Sea that is a symbol of the colonial era here. Interestingly, the last of the British ships set sail from here after Indian independence. Dinner is back at the hotel this evening.

Included Meals:

Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 18:

Mumbai

Today we explore Mumbai in depth, including visits to several of the city’s most prominent sights. See the Hanging Gardens, the famed Dhobi Ghats, and drive past Marine Drive and Malabar Hill. You’ll also visit the Gandhi Museum, where you’ll learn about the life and death of the man Indians call “Mahatma” (meaning great soul). Our afternoon is at leisure, giving you time to discover more of Mumbai’s treasures on your own. This evening, enjoy a Farewell Dinner at the hotel. 


Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 19:

Mumbai / Disembark to airport / Return home arriving next day

After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight home. 

Included Meals:

Breakfast

Important Notice: The above day-by-day itineraries are preliminary and therefore subject to change. If changes occur while on tour, you will be notified by your Vantage Adventure Leader or regional expert.

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CALL 1-800-848-5773

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