The kaleidoscopic beauty of northern India unfolds for you on this remarkable adventure. Each day offers new opportunities for discovery, from watching hordes of people bathing in the sacred Ganges and admiring the mighty Amber Fort to witnessing the breathtaking splendor of Udaipur’s Lake Palace and the ineffable beauty of the legendary Taj Mahal. This adventure brings out the true spirit of this part of the world in all its enigmatic glory: a country both ancient and modern, bustling and bucolic, fascinatingly raw and serenely spiritual.
Embark on this thrilling adventure and experience India’s famed Golden Triangle and so much more. See the striking landmarks that have made India so famous – from the Qutab Minar in Delhi to Jaipur’s City Palace – as well as experiencing meaningful moments of cultural discovery. Whether it’s riding a rickshaw through the streets of Chadni Chowk in Delhi, stopping at a market in Udaipur, or interacting with the students at a music school in Varanasi, the litany of cultural discoveries on this trip are sure to leave you with memories to last a lifetime.
Join us and experience the best of northern India on this captivating adventure.
Overnight flight to Delhi, India
Embark on an overnight flight to Delhi, India
Overnight flight / Arrive in Delhi, India
We arrive in Delhi after an overnight flight. 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.
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, is 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Varanasi / Agra
We rise early today so that we can catch our flight for Agra. After transferring to our hotel and enjoying 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 enjoy dinner at the hotel restaurant.
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 on your own 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Maharana – 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 on your own.
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.
Today, we take a boat out for a sightseeing cruise on Lake Pichola, including a stop at the Garden of the Ladies. In the afternoon, we visit the City Palace, a grand architectural feat nearly 400 years in the making. 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. Tonight we’ll gather for a Farewell Dinner.
Udaipur / Delhi / Return home
We head back to the airport this morning for our flight back to Delhi to connect with our overnight flight home.Please note: Land-only clients need to book their return ticket from Udaipur
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.