Airport check-in for your overnight flight to Delhi.
DAY 2ARRIVAL IN NEW DELHI
ARRIVAL IN NEW DELHI
On arrival, we transfer to the five-star Taj Diplomatic Enclave (previously named the Taj Palace)A for one night. After a short rest we commence our guided tour of New Delhi. The city centre, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1911, is bisected by wide, tree-lined avenues, a hub which clearly reflects the Raj legacy and home to the former Viceroyas Palace, now the Presidential Palace. Heading down the imposing Rajpath, we pass India Gate and the Parliament building. Weall visit some of Delhias older monuments, including the Qutub Minaret, started in 1199, which is the tallest stone built tower in India. Nearby is Humayunas tomb, an outstanding example of Moghul architecture and the first mausoleum of its type, pre-dating the more widely known Taj Mahal by nearly a century.A A buffet dinner is included tonight.
DAY 3OLD DELHI
This morning we continue our city tour, first visiting Old Delhi, starting with the Raj Ghat, a fittingly simple memorial to Mahatma Gandhi. We continue past the imposing walls and battlements of the great Red Fort before visiting the Jama Masjid, one of Asiaas largest mosques. We leave Delhi in the afternoon for our drive to Agra, arriving at our four-star Oberoi Trident hotel, in the late afternoon.A
DAY 4TAJ MAHAL
We rise early to catch the sun rising over the Taj Mahal. In the soft morning light, as the mist rises from the Yamuna River behind it, the Taj Mahal seems to float, mirage-like, above the surrounding landscape. A combination of extraordinary beauty, symmetry and history makes this wonder of the world one of the most amazing monuments on the planet and you will have plenty of time to admire it from all angles. Moving on, we continue our tour with a visit to the vast red sandstone Agra Fort. Completed in 1573, it was the headquarters of the Moghul Empire, boasting vast size and opulence, its buildings make it more of a walled palace than a fort. In the evening you have the option of completing a wonderful day with another visit to the Taj Mahal, to witness the shrine at sunset.
DAY 5FATEHPUR SIKRI
Leaving Agra this morning we continue towards the ancient abandoned city of Fatehpur Sikri, built in 1571, as Emperor Akbaras imperial capital. Although it was mysteriously abandoned just 15 years later, it remains in a remarkable state of preservation, with numerus palaces, wide courtyards and beautiful carvings.
Just 15 kilometres away is the Bagh Bharatpur, a luxury Heritage Hotel in Bharatpur where we stop for lunch before going on to the railway station to catch the Shatabdi Express for our comfortable two and a half hour journey to Ranthambore National Park.
Originally the private hunting preserve of Maharajahs, its 400 square kilometres of forested rolling hills, valleys and lakes form a unique ecosystem. Started in 1973, Indiaas famous Tiger Project was created to protect the countryas tiger population. Despite many difficulties, the tigers of Ranthambore have survived and numbers have stabilised.
Our hotel for the next two nights is the comfortable family-run three-star Ranthambore Regency on full board basis.
DAY 6RANTHAMBORE TIGER SAFARI
RANTHAMBORE TIGER SAFARI
An early start this morning is worth the sacrifice as we head out to the park for our safari using specially built, 20-person, open-top four wheel drive vehicles known as acantersa. After many years of conservation, Ranthambore is now the best place to spot tigers in India, but the reserve is about more than tigers a over 300 bird species have been counted including impressive crested eagles, painted stork and wild peacocks. The parkas residents also include large numbers of sambars, the largest Asian antelope, as well as marsh crocodiles, wild boar and rare sloth bears and leopards. Look out for the playful troop of black-faced langur monkeys near the main entrance gate.
We return to our hotel in the late morning, with time to relax before and after lunch. In the afternoon we take our second trip into the park for another chance to spot the elusive tigers. Dinner is included this evening.
Leaving Ranthambore after breakfast we head north to the aPink Citya of Jaipur. Our afternoon tour will cover all the major highlights of this ancient city. The famous Hawa Mahal, known as theA Palace of Winds, is one of our first stops before we continue to the Astronomical Observatory constructed in 1726 and on to the City Palace, still home to the present Maharajah of Jaipur, where weall view collections of costumes, carpets, paintings and the impressive armoury. Our hotel for the next two nights is the new four-star Hilton Jaipur.
DAY 8AMBER FORT
This morning another highlight, on a tour of highlights: youall visit the immense Amber Fort, located in the hills just a short drive out of Jaipur. Sampling all the most fascinating sights, our guided tour includes the sections reserved for the Maharajahas wives and concubines as well as the remarkable hall of mirrors, with tiny delicate convex mirrors embedded like a mosaic in the walls and ceilings.
After breakfast, we bid goodbye to Jaipur and head north, deeper into the interior of rural Rajasthan. We pass numerous small villages and towns on our way to the Sekhawati region of the state and the village of Alsisar. This was once part of Indiaas Silk Road and over the years the merchants here grew very rich, building a large number of luxurious mansions known as ahavelisa, to display their wealth through the magnificence of their frescoed walls.
Although most of these have now been abandoned, the imposing and luxurious residence of the local kings has been lovingly restored into an amazing Heritage Hotel, the Alsisar Mahal, where we stay for the night with a buffet dinner. A maze of winding corridors, cool courtyards and arched colonnades, lead to the charming rooms, all different, but most are spacious and some with four-poster double beds. Rooms are air-conditioned, with bath or shower, but no TV.
In the afternoon we take a guided walk through the village to explore the best examples of the havelis that lie just outside the walls of the Alsisar Mahal.A Dinner is included tonight.
DAY 10NEW DELHI
After breakfast we head back to Delhi and the last night of our tour, at the Taj Diplomatic Enclave.A Dinner is included this evening.
DAY 11RETURN FLIGHT
In the morning we will transfer to the airport for our flight home, arriving back in the UK to reflect on a once-in-a-lifetime tour.