Experience Rajput hospitality, and feel culture and history all around you during your feature stay at Bhanwar Vilas Palace. The opportunity to contrast the exciting chaos of the big cities with the different pace of life and local traditions of remote villages. Discover the rich history and architecture of the impressive Forts scattered across the province, and how the Taj Mahal, one of the most recognisable buildings in the world, still has the power to surprise even the most experienced travellers. The chance to get closer to India’s exotic wildlife, and perhaps catch more than a glimpse of its elusive animal king, the magnificent tiger, in Ranthambhore National Park
If you asked our tour leaders where they would most like to go to in Rajasthan, this special tour would be it! The magic of Rajasthan can best be experienced by being a guest in some very special places and recipient to timeless Rajput hospitality. Overnight stays in ornate ‘havelis’ and historic palaces that are now heritage hotels enable us to sample the lifestyle of a maharaja, surrounded by opulence and grace. Visits to villages allow us to connect with the local people who in some cases still live a way of life that has changed little in centuries. The fabled cities of Agra – home to the magnificent Taj Mahal, Udaipur, Jodhpur and Jaipur will impress with their grandeur, whilst Karauli, Bundi, Bijaipur and Dera Khairwa will entice with their romance and rich cultural legacies. We also seek out India’s exotic wildlife, including the magnificent tiger, on an adventure to Ranthambhore National Park. This is indeed the Rajasthan of your dreams!
Welcome to India. On arrival at the airport you’ll be met and transferred to the hotel. There will be a Welcome Meeting in the hotel at 6pm on Day 1 outlining the itinerary and covering many aspects of travelling in India. Please bring your passport, travel insurance documents and next of kin information to this meeting. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. You can use any free time before the meeting to explore this excitingly chaotic capital city. Filled with historical sites from different eras, museums and galleries, shops and endless bazaars, there’s much to see and you will be briefed on sightseeing options.
Early this morning you will leave Delhi behind and drive to Agra, home to India's most famous site - the spectacular Taj Mahal. Best known as a monument to love and loss, the 17th century Taj was built by Emperor Shah Jahan as a tomb for his second wife and is a beautiful example of Mughal architecture surrounded by trimmed English gardens. Agra is also home to one of the finest looking forts in India. Stop at the nearby Agra Fort, a fortress, palace and prison built of red sandstone by Akbar in 1565 and partially converted into a palace during the time of Shah Jahan. (The total driving time today is approximately 5 hours).
Fatehpur Sikri / Karauli
From Agra Head east and pass the Kos Minar medieval milestones on the road to the abandoned city of Fatehpur Sikri (approximately 2 hours), deserted after only a few years in the 16th century because there wasn’t enough water. The incredibly well preserved royal complex is a haven of courtyards, pavilions, ornamental gardens and home to the intricately carved Rumi Sultana palace. Then continue on to Karauli (approximately 4 hours), a 600-year-old city founded by Yaduvanshi Rajput kings, where you will arrive mid-afternoon. Here you will take a walk around the village, visiting the temple of Madan Mohan Ji and exploring the nearby organic farm and dairy. You may also have the chance to visit the City Palace (optional), an amazing structure featuring impressive archways and interconnecting rooms, many of them colourfully painted with frescoes, and soak up the atmosphere in a part of the country that sees very few tourists. Everthing seems to have a greater air of authenticity about it here as you join in with the local people going about their daily life. This evening will be spent at a sprawling palace belonging to the family that once ruled Karauli. Bhanwar Vilas Palace was built as a royal residence in 1938, designed in a colonial style and furnished in the Art Deco fashion.
Ranthambhore National Park
This morning drive (approximately 4 hours) to the town of Ranthambore. Ranthambore National Park is one of the original Project Tiger reserves, a place where nature has reclaimed ancient fortresses and temples, and that is teeming with wildlife. In 4WD safari vehicles take game drives to search for animals and the majestic tigers which stalk through the jungle. You may also have the chance to explore the 1,000 year old Ranthambore Fort, where two pavilions that have survived the ravages of war and time - Badal Mahal and Hammirs Court - give an idea of its old grandeur.
Notes: Ranthambhore National Park is closed between 1 July and 30 September each year. On those trips affected, we'll visit nearby Sawai Mansingh Sanctuary. Sawai Mansingh Sanctuary is located approx. 16km from Ranthambhore and, due to its hilly terrain, isn't as affected by the monsoon. Tigers inhabit this area also and spottings are more favourable at this time of year as they move away from flooded areas of Ranthambore.
Ranthambhore National Park
Once the hunting ground of the Maharajas of Jaipur, Ranthambore is now yours to explore. Today you will take game drives in the morning and in late afternoon, as this is when animals are most active. Even if the tigers are too stealthy to see, the park is filled with other animals like gazelle, hyenas, sloth bears, crocodiles, jackals, three types of antelope (nilgai, sambar and chital) and leopards to watch out for. You’ll break for lunch and a relaxing afternoon back at the hotel, then drive out to explore a different sector of the park, this will hopefully increase the chance of tiger sightings.
In the morning you will drive to Bundi (approximately 4 hours), a small town founded in the 12th century. Famous as the place that inspired Rudyard Kipling to write his novel, ‘Kim’, Bundi today is known for its series of step-wells ('baoris'), old houses, narrow streets, and the remarkable Taragarh Fort. The view from the highway as you enter the town is magnificent. This evening you will dine with a local family in Bundi, a wonderfully memorable Peregrine moment. Tonight is made even more special by staying in a comfortable tented camp that feels like stepping back in time, full of historic ambiance.
Take the day to explore more of Bundi. On an orientation walk, wander narrow streets packed with blue Brahmin houses, bazaars, temples and shops, and mingle with locals in the downtown market. Visit the ancient and ornately carved baoris (step wells), which once provided water to the city, and learn about Rudyard Kipling's place in the town's history from a local guide. You'll also explore the sprawling 17th-century Bundi Palace, built during the reign of Rao Raja Ratan Ji Heruled and which looms large over the town. The palace, described by Kipling as ‘the work of goblins rather than of men’, provides magnificent views of the town. Make sure you see the turquoise and gold murals inside.
Today you will drive towards Bijaipur (approximately 5 hours), stopping en route at Menal, a temple complex that has been referred to as a ‘mini Khajuraho’ dut to its elaborate erotic carvings. The name Menal is derived from Maha Nal or Great Gorge. The temple complex is located on both sides of a waterfall and is a favourite spot for local families to picnic. When you arrive in Bijaipur you will stay in the 16th-century Castle Bijaipur, now a heritage hotel with attractive dome, arched windows and doorways, all within the original fortified walls. Enjoy the palace’s blend of colonial and Mughal architecture as you relax by the pool or in the gardens, pampered by the Mewar hospitality of the hotel’s owners.
Notes: Because of the limited number of rooms at Castle Bijaipur, on occasions you may instead stay overnight in deluxe tented camp nearby, which is under the same ownership and is equally opulent.
Today's drive to Udaipur (approximately 4 hours) is broken up with a visit to Chittorgarh, probably India's greatest medieval fort, perched in a dramatic setting overlooking the town. Also known as Chittor, Chittaur, or Chittaurgarh, this colossal hilltop fort was the ancient capital of Mewar state, ruled by the Sisodia Rajputs. Three times in its long history powerful enemy forces sacked Chittorgarh. On each occasion the men rode out from the fort to certain death, while the women committed 'johar' by throwing themselves and their children on to a huge funeral pyre; and so the immense stretch of Chittorgarh's walls and ruined palaces tell the stories of innumerable sieges and heroism. You will then continue your journey towards on of the most romantic cities in India - Udaipur, also known as the “Venice of East”.
Spend the day touring the sights of Udaipur, the beauitful city built around the shores of Lake Pichola and full of fascinating temples, ornate palaces and impressive 'havelis' (merchant homes). Wind through narrow streets to the City Palace complex, the largest in Rajasthan, on the banks of Lake Pichola. Witness the devotion to Lord Wishnu at the impressive Jagdish Temple and, if time allows, perhaps visit the rose gardens of the Gulab Bagh, take a boat trip across Lake Pichola or participate in a Sitar lesson.
After leaving Udaipur and on the road towards Jodhpur (approximately 5 hours), stop to spend the night in the unique surrounds of Dera Khairwa, a 15th century fort-palace located in the village of Khairwa in the Pali District. The rulers of Dera Khairwa belong to the noble clan of Jodha-Rathores, who are related to the founders of the city of Jodhpur. During your time here you can imagine what it must have been like to be part of the ruling class in the India of yesteryear, surrounded by elegance and opulence.
Today you will discover Rajasthan's second-largest city, the busy and chaotic Jodhpur (approximately 4 hours drive). Established in the 15th century on the edge of the Great Thar Desert, Jodhpur was an important trading centre. Historically many of the buildings were painted blue as a sign that it was the home of a high caste Brahmin; today most of the city is blue as other castes have followed suit. While in Jodhpur you will have the opportunity to explore the colossal Mehrangarh Fort, which sits atop a sheer rocky ridge in the middle of town. You will also explore the many palaces and courtyards contained within the fort, as well as the clock tower and the bustling Sadar Market, located at the foot of the hill. This market is a great place to stroll around at leisure, with several alleyways leading off to various bazaars selling all sorts of fruits, vegetables, spices, textiles, handicrafts and, allegedly, the best lassi in India.